Clove (Syzygium aromaticum or Eugenia caryophyllata) is an evergreen tree native to the Moluccas, or Spice Islands, of Indonesia. Clove trees grow in areas with tropical climates including Zanzibar, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and Brazil. The use of cloves dates back to at least 200 BC in Asia. This spice was introduced to Europe by Arab traders in the 4th century, and became popular during the Middle Ages for preserving and flavoring food.
Whole cloves are actually the dried, unopened buds of the clove flower. Their name comes from the Latin word clavus, meaning nail, because this is what their shape resembles.
Medicinal Properties and Therapeutic Uses of Cloves
Dried cloves contain up to 20% volatile oils. The principle oil is eugenol, which gives them their distinctive aromatic scent. Clove oil has potent antimicrobial properties, and is effective against bacteria, viruses and fungi.
Cloves and clove oil have traditionally been used for toothache. The antimicrobial action helps to kill harmful bacteria, and clove oil also acts as an analgesic to reduce pain. Undiluted clove oil is very strong and may cause irritation when it comes in contact with the mucous membranes in the mouth. When treating toothache, use only as much clove oil as necessary and apply it directly to the affected tooth with a cotton swab or cotton ball. A few drops of clove oil diluted in water can also be used as a mouthwash and gargle for gingivitis and sore throat.
To make clove tea for internal use, infuse about ½ teaspoon of ground cloves in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes, and strain.
Cloves have anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties, and the tea be can be taken for gastrointestinal and digestive problems including nausea, gas, cramps and diarrhea, and also helps to prevent or treat peptic ulcers.
Clove tea is also beneficial for upper respiratory tract conditions such as colds and flu, bronchitis, and laryngitis.
For painful menstruation, start drinking clove tea 1-2 days before the menstrual flow is expected to begin, and continue for the first two days into the cycle.
The anti-fungal properties of cloves may benefit those suffering from candida infections. For external fungal infections, a cloth soaked in strong clove tea can be applied as a compress, or clove oil can be diluted in carrier oil such as olive or almond oil and applied directly to the affected area.
As a cooking spice, cloves contain high amounts of manganese, omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamins C and K, as well as antioxidants. To ensure freshness, it is best to buy whole cloves and grind them in a coffee grinder just before use.
Skenderi, Gazmend. Herbal Vade Mecum. Herbacy Press, 2003.